Umbrellas have plenty of weaknesses, but the one that really galls is that they seem to be designed for only a very particular style of rain—drops that fall straight down on your head. Rain, as it turns out, is often accompanied by wind. So the drops will flank you, finding a way under your protective shield, while gusts of wind constantly threaten to turn it awkwardly, shamefully inside-out. In the middle of a windy Chicago thunderstorm, I often find myself trudging to the store like Captain America facing a barrage of bullets, perpetually fearful of losing my last line of defense against wetness.
Rain Shield, a Red Dot award winner designed by students Lin Min-Wei and Liu Li-Hsiang, is an attempt to solve these age-old problems by acknowledging the way rain really works. It’s an umbrella with no sharp parts to stab fellow pedestrians, and no "bones" or joints for gusts to invert. And you can aim its extended flat panel directly at the rain to protect you from several aquatic attacks at once.
The Rain Shield’s most enticing proposition, however, may be that it reimagines the whole folding and unfolding process. While most umbrellas slide along a pole to be lifted into position, the Rain Shield pops out like a family-friendly tent. Notably, this means that you won’t be forced to carry around a metal stick all day. Instead, your umbrella folds into a cloth plate that you can stow flat in a purse or briefcase, a bit larger than your ultra-portable umbrella but definitely smaller than the mighty walking stick umbrellas out there.
As of today, Rain Shield doesn’t exist beyond the concept mock-ups you see here, but the duo of Taiwanese designers are currently forming a studio to realize a series of new products. We wish them well.